ONTARIO VOTES 2007: Canadian Plastics talks to the Green Party of Ontario
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Canadian Plastics asked a series of questions of the leading candidates for premiership in the upcoming Ontario pro...
Canadian Plastics asked a series of questions of the leading candidates for premiership in the upcoming Ontario provincial general election, to be held on Oct. 10. Below is the response of Frank de Jong, leader of the Green Party of Ontario.
If elected to the position of Premier, what do you hope to do for the manufacturing sector? What, in your view, are the major issues facing the manufacturing sector in Ontario today?
My hope is that Ontario maintains its lead as the manufacturing centre for Canada. Foreign competition, loss of skilled labour (due to retirements and aging workers), high taxes and government red tape, are major issues facing the manufacturing sector. As Premier, I would work with the industry to develop new markets, invest in new green technologies, and reduce corporate tax through the Green Partys plan for a tax shift.
The manufacturing sector in Ontario is operating under enormous pressures, ranging from the strength of the Canadian dollar to foreign competition. What local strategies would you propose to enhance the skills and competitiveness of the manufacturing industries in Ontario?
Canada, and Ontario in particular, has a lot of positive attributes to offer both domestic companies and foreign interests looking for a stable business investment environment and a skilled labour force. However, we must develop a strategy to compete with countries that offer lower labour costs and jurisdictions that ignore global environmental standards. We can compete in quality, productivity, and can become a global leader in sustainable production and products. The Green Party of Ontario would introduce incentives for research, invest in programs to attract and train skilled workers, and support the manufacturing industry during the transition to a green economy.’
What is your vision for the manufacturing sector in Ontario? Please elaborate on your answer.
An increase in manufacturing jobs (to help replace the 160,000 jobs lost over the past four years). New technologies created within industry that approach challenges from an environmentally sustainable point of view rather than just an economic one. Ontario showing by example that industry and the environment are not mutually exclusive.
How familiar are you with the plastics industries in Ontario, or the manufacturing sector at large? What is your knowledge of the issues surrounding these industries?
My knowledge of the plastics industry is, admittedly, minimal. However, the Green Party believes in extensive consultation and consensus when making decisions. The plastics industries and other sectors within manufacturing, would be welcome at the table to help us formulate specific strategies to address the issues of employment, competition, labour laws, access to U.S. and foreign markets, apprenticeships and training, and R & D.
The mold, tool and die industry, particularly in areas like Windsor, seems to be fighting an uphill battle. There have been several mold shop closures in the last two years, which have a negative impact on the industry and the local economy. Please briefly explain how an Ontario government lead by you would help this embattled sector.
The moldmaking industry is being squeezed by an aging workforce and foreign competition. In cities like Windsor, Oshawa, St. Catharines, the mold, tool and die industry is directly tied in with the auto sector that faces its own challenges. By supporting the auto industry to aim for fuel-efficient, new lightweight components, and innovative design, a Green Party government would open new avenues and opportunities for companies that feed into larger manufacturing industries. By supporting apprenticeship programs, the mold, tool and die sector could be rejuvenated by younger workers bringing improved techniques and modern approaches to small manufacturing. Advertising and marketing Ontarios strength as a manufacturing centre, similar to the Ontario Foodland campaign, would help promote the industry to foreign interests.
The current government has offered grants and funding to Ontario companies, especially in the area of technological innovation and R&D. What kind of funding would you devote to the plastics industries?
Lower tuition for post-secondary trade education programs, employer support to hire apprentices, R & D on new components such as bio-based plastics and natural fibre composites, support for new technology products (wind turbine blades, pv solar panels, improved recycling and waste diversion) all would receive funding in an effort to foster the manufacturing industry by a Green Party government.
Union leaders and manufacturing workers have expressed frustration over the number of job losses in the sector. As a leader, what kind of strategy will you employ to curb or significantly reduce the number of lost jobs in this sector?
Increased training and review of skilled labour from other countries. The rising Canadian dollar may attract needed talent to locate in Canada.
Anti-plastic sentiment has reached a fever pitch recently, and one provincial leader in Manitoba has even suggested a province-wide ban on plastic bags in the province. Would you support similar anti-plastic measures in Ontario? Why or why not?
The Green Party would probably support a ban on plastic bags but not as a political ploy or to penalize the plastics industry. A transition to a more sustainable product would be encouraged and supported through incentives and government regulations. The concept of using non-renewable petroleum based feedstock to produce a one use container is not sustainable in the eyes of the Green Party. Likewise, the proliferation of packaging is at odds with our philosophy. We would seek alternatives to the wasteful use of plastic.
In the Canadian plastics industry, trade is heavily skewed toward the United States, which accounted for 91 percent of exports and 75 percent of imports in 2006. What kind of strategy would you employ help to help Canadian firms maintain, and even improve, this trade relationship?
By emphasizing innovative design, increased productivity, a well trained and experienced skilled workforce, and incentives in research, the Green Party hopes that the Ontario manufacturing sector will become a global leader opening global markets with developed countries that recognize our contribution to sustainability, and to developing countries eager to share in our approach and products.
Bottom line: why should members of the plastics industry consider giving you their vote?
Manufacturing sectors such as the plastics industry need not fear the Green Party. It is not the process that concerns us, it is the feedstock. If the feedstock was more sustainable current manufacturing practices would continue as is. Also, we realize that any transition to sustainable practices would take place over a period of time allowing for retraining, retooling, and new design. We feel that changes to the manufacturing sector will inevitably take place and the Green Party wishes to be a partner with the manufacturing industries to encourage and support the move to a green economy.